Artifact of Early Antarctic Aviation Found
January 5, 2010 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Early in the days of exploration of Antarctica, Australian geologist Douglas Mawson turned down an invitation to join Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Expedition in 1910 (Cool Antarctica previously). Instead, Mawson lead his own expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (December 1911 to December 1913), an expedition to chart the 2000-mile coastline directly south of Australia, one of the least-visited parts of the continent throughout the early years of Antarctic exploration. The group's efforts and activities are well documented, and many remnants of the expedition remain on Antarctica. The conservation of Mawson's Huts is now an ongoing effort from Association of Australasian Palaeontologists (AAP) Mawson's Huts Foundation. While most efforts were focused on the recovery and treatment of artifacts inside the main hut, the group also searched for the Vickers (Aviation) monoplane that was modified to become an "air tractor", or motorized sledge. The remains of the plane were last seen in 1975. Now the plane has been found, thanks to an exceptionally low tide and a bit of luck.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
It was found by a heritage carpenter, Mark Farrell of Hobart, who was looking for a suitable landing spot for a cruise ship to bring visitors to the historic huts at the site in January, he said.
Though the Mawson's Huts Foundation Latest News page doesn't include reference to the find, it does provide more details about the known history of the plane, as well as earlier finds.

Bonus bits:
* Photos of the original expedition, courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales (mentioned previously)
* Mawson's Huts Conservation Programme Part 1 and Part 2
posted by filthy light thief (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

I love posts like this. A lot of information about something interesting (to me at least) that I had no idea about. Good job!
posted by Danf at 1:55 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also of note: this was not the first craft to fly above Antarctica. As noted in The Independent article:
Mawson had hoped to stage the first flight over the Antarctic ice cap, but the plane crashed on the Australian mainland before he set sail. No one was hurt, but with the wings damaged and no time to repair them, the explorer adapted the craft to haul his sledges, adding skis to the undercarriage and a special tail-rudder.
The first plane to fly over Antarctica was Stars and Stripes, one of the 1928 Fairchilde FC-2, which was modified "for scientific Antarctic exploration", with passenger seats removed and an extra 40-gallon gas tank in each wing, and a 72-gallon tank in the cabin. It was constructed especially for a ski undercarriage with 10-foot landing gear spread.

Original link to The Independent and info on Stars and Stripes via Slashdot and comments.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:00 PM on January 5, 2010

I will never stop being fascinated with polar exploration. Thanks for all these good links!
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:19 PM on January 5, 2010

Oh wow, cool. Thanks!
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2010

Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!
posted by Zed at 2:30 PM on January 5, 2010

Great post! I just finished reading Mawson's Will, which, although the prose gets a little purple at times, is a pretty good recounting of the expedition.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also: Douglas Mawson was on the old Australian $100 bill (aka the Grey Nurse). My high school was named after Douglas Mawson, and there was a giant felt $100 in the atrium of the main building.
posted by MarchHare at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

The band Rube Waddell does a song called Mawson's Will (inspired by the book mentioned above by The Card Cheat), and my ipod insisted that I listen to it every day for a couple of weeks. I finally appeased it by looking Mawson up on the internet - what an amazing and terrifying story. This post is a great supplement to my cursory research. Thanks!
posted by smartyboots at 5:49 PM on January 5, 2010

Is this where I come to make more Lovecraft references?
posted by autopilot at 6:38 PM on January 5, 2010

Or maybe to make hurf-durf "hungover Australian test pilot" jokes, prompting the question "Would it be more eponysterical for autopilot to make such a joke, or Greg_Ace?
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:50 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Essays about Pixar.   |   A Politics Straight Out of French Lick, Indiana Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments